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Marthe (Dedalus European Classics) Paperback – 13 Oct 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dedalus Ltd; Tra edition (13 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903517478
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903517475
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.7 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,022,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

This new translation by Brendan King is the first for nearly fifty years. Capturing the lively linguistic inventiveness of the original, it also includes an introduction and comprehensive notes. First published in 1876, "Marthe" was an important landmark in J.K. Huysmans's literary career: it was the 28-year old writer's first excursion into the novel form and propelled him into the growing ranks of the Naturalist movement, then beginning to take shape under Zola's direction. "Marthe" was one of the first French novels to tackle head-on the subject of prostitution, a theme that was to become a central preoccupation in the work of many novelists, painters and poets. Set in and around the demi-monde of the Parisian music hall, it centres on a would-be actress, Marthe, who works in one of the lowest dives in Paris, and tells the story of her brief and ultimately doomed relationship with Leo, a romantic searching for something to take the place of his lost illusions. "M. Huysmans leads us into places so foul, dens so iniquitous, that his readers, however shameless you imagine them to be, can no longer follow him". - "Gazette Anecdotique", 1876. J. K.

Huysmans's early works excel in their descriptive ability and he is one of the greatest authors in describing the life of Paris and its surroundings as witnessed by his Parisian Sketches (Dedalus translation by Brendan King in 2004). The publication of "A Rebours" in 1884, made Huysmans one of the most famous authors of his day. His novel about Satanism, "La-Bas" (1891) is surely the cult novel of the nineteenth century. (Brendan King's translation was selected by Beryl Bainbridge as one of the best books published in 2001 in "The Independent"). "La-Bas" is the first of four novels about Huysmans alter ego Durtal, which was followed by "En Route" (1895), "The Cathedral" (1898), and "The Oblate of St Benedict" (1903), all available from Dedalus. Robert Baldick's "The Life of J.-.K.Huysmans" was published by Dedalus in March 2006.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Useless Article on 9 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback
Huysmans first novel, which shows "the faults and audacity of youth", as Huysmans confesses. It's a rather purple-prose dated opinion of a fallen red headed woman. Yes, even the tired 'flame-headed' woman motif so fashionable at the time is represented by the "whore" Marthe. The novel enjoys the idea of a woman fallen into the gutter, lacks a realistic look at a prostitutes life, favouring a mans fantasy. Yet it does provide some great grotesque caricatures, which Huysmans clearly delights in writing. Some lines are terrible like: " ...she served in the regiment of love's mercenaries..." Huysmans recognises the over-dramatic phrases saying he later wrote in a "less tormented style".

It's a very short novel, only 100 pages (the rest is introduction and notes, including useful images, but no reviews Huysman had written at the time of the novel, like a French edition had included. Since the novel is so short, it would've been nice to include a little more exegesis, if not really essential). The novel is an easy read, perhaps due to the translation, although still with it's original lurid flourishes, which try too hard to impress.

The introduction includes the criticisms of two other French authors, which point out the problems of this novel, better than I have:

"...you sometimes cannot resist the temptation of an over-literary expression, the charm of a brilliant, showy or curious archaic word, and this leads you to kill the reality of a well-formed scene, very skilfully, with a literary pistol shot..." E de Goncourt.

"...the book would benefit from a lighter tone. Your style is rich enough not to abuse it. I am of the opinion that intensity cannot be achieved though the colour of words but through their value.
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Format: Hardcover
Capturing the lively linguistic inventiveness of the original, it also includes an introduction and comprehensive notes. First published in 1876, "Marthe" was an important landmark in J.K. Huysmans's literary career: it was the 28-year old writer's first excursion into the novel form and propelled him into the growing ranks of the Naturalist movement, then beginning to take shape under Zola's direction. "Marthe" was one of the first French novels to tackle head-on the subject of prostitution, a theme that was to become a central preoccupation in the work of many novelists, painters and poets. Set in and around the demi-monde of the Parisian music hall, it centres on a would-be actress, Marthe, who works in one of the lowest dives in Paris, and tells the story of her brief and ultimately doomed relationship with Leo, a romantic searching for something to take the place of his lost illusions. "M. Huysmans leads us into places so foul, dens so iniquitous, that his readers, however shameless you imagine them to be, can no longer follow him". - "Gazette Anecdotique", 1876. J. K. Huysmans's early works excel in their descriptive ability and he is one of the greatest authors in describing the life of Paris and its surroundings as witnessed by his Parisian Sketches. Superb decadent novel about a man's obsession with a prostitute in 1890s Paris. Translated and with an Introduction by Robert Baldick
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is a bleak look at the bleak existence of a prostitute. 9 Oct. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A proto-kafkaesque novella that masterfully paints the picture of a miserable life as a Parisian prostitute around the turn of the century. Marthe can be likened to the complement of the Underground Man in Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground.
There is not much of a plot to describe. Marthe is introduced as a teenage "worker in fake pearls", rolling ground oyster shells and foul chemicals together into beads. Her health failing, she finds refuge in the red light district.
A beautifully miserable story.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Early Naturalism At Its Finest 26 Nov. 2007
By Samuel Wells - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Marthe: The Story of a Whore by J.K. Huysmans, translated by Brendan King.
There have been a series of new Huysmans translations by Mr. King released under the Dedalus imprint in recent years; the only one that mentions absinthe specifically is this, Huysman's first published novel. He didn't become a "decadent" writer until a little later in his career, however: at this time he was still a loyal Zola disciple and the text falls very neatly into the category of Naturalism. As to be expected, it is the tale of a courtesan's rise and fall due to alcohol. Absinthe makes two brief appearances, both in exchanges between the titular prostitute and her bohemian boyfriend Leo, first as celebration and then to alleviate suffering. The novel ends with a grisly autopsy that serves as moral against the evils of addiction.
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